Friday, January 15, 2010

Justice and it's system


I was in court again today, this time with the prosecution.

Before everything got started, the public defender addressed the crowd sitting with me in the gallery, “I am the court appointed defender. I am by myself today so please be patient. Do not worry if we have not spoken yet, I will get to you, and the court will give us time to talk before your case is heard. Though your case may be new to me, I am not new to this, and you will get a good defense.” He looked to be all of 25 years old.

The prosecutor who called me last night, to make sure I was still coming, was nervous. As we waited through the two hour roll call of cases she explained that this was her first theft case. Her bulldog of a partner was not nervous at all but rather in her element.
She rolled her eyes at the defense attorneys, exchanged knowing looks with all the police officers, and whatever she did, she did it abruptly.

The court made myself and all who were to testify in this case leave the room till it was their turn to take the stand. I found myself in a small waiting room with the three cops who caught the guy breaking into my car back in September.
“This guys gonna get off”, said the young, blonde, officer who had originally offered to let me have some “alone time” with the captive in the back of his squad car. “Why”, I responded.

He explained how he had seen it a million times. They catch people and always end up right back on the street for him to pick up again. “That’s why I always tell people that if they catch someone, to handle business themselves. We will say they fell down, or say whatever we have to, but if you want justice you need do it yourself. Besides, this judge is an @#$... they all are; lawyers and all”. At this last remark Officer Ramos looked over at him, then over at the fidgety prosecutor, and suggested, “present company excluded of course.” The blonde guy just stared back silently. “You’re an --- ----,” Ramos finished.

This disillusioned cop reminisced about a poster a Sr. officer once had in his office showing a picture of Commissioner Rizzo and a quote that read “No judge can administer justice as well as the end of a nightstick.” At this all three officers began to tell tales of how they miss the tool they are no longer allowed to carry. One even told of how once, while pursuing a suspect, another officer with one swipe of his wand, shattered both the suspect’s legs.

“Seriously?!” I inquired. “Tell me you have to be absolutely sure you have the right guy before doing something like that.” At this they all laughed out loud. The third officer, who had not previously spoken, told a story of how he had once joined a pursuit while off duty and in civilian clothes. He was ahead of the other cops, who quickly caught and beat him. He told the story while chuckling.
I asked What about catching the wrong guy? I asked if he had ever caught the wrong guy. After looking down at the desk for a moment, as if reflecting, he answered,”no”. He was serious.

The case was tried and the thief was found guilty of attempted theft and reckless conduct (he kicked out the tail light of the car while being arrested). As this was the defendant’s 33rd arrest and fifth conviction, he was given 2 years jail time. He was also ordered to pay restitution. When I asked the experienced lawyer how this restitution thing works she replied, “with this guy, he will probably leave a stolen radio on your porch every other month.” I don’t plan on seeing a dime.

17 comments:

uglyblackjohn said...

Cases like this are the reason I am not a Black v. white kind of guy - IMOHO, it all comes down to what is wrong and what is right.

Rod Johnson said...

I love police officers. There are good ones and bad ones though. I hope I never meet the latter.

Amber said...

I wonder if this mindset is Philly-centric, or Cop-centric, or just this particular group of officers? Any ideas?

brohammas said...

I would never say its ALL cops, but it is surely common here. I cannot speak for everywhere, but I have met lotsa cops in lots of places and unfortunayely the nice one's stick out in my mind... they were the exception.

They always seem to enter the interraction with the idea that I am the enemy.

Amber said...

I did not mean to imply ALL, for certain. This is an instance where personal experience could lead to a blanket prejudice if not careful. But it is sad.

How could you keep a positive perspective on humanity when your job is to reign in the trouble makers day in and day out? It would be hard. I would think you would have to constantly review your philosophy of why you do your job. (Protector of the peace?)

Dave Montgomery said...

Some policemen, when being in law enforcement for a long period of time can become somewhat negative if they have had a lot of bad experiences and in big cities that happens a lot.

Having lived around in big and small cities, I can say I have never had a bad experience so to speak, although my first ticket was given by one of my ward members in smallville, Kamiah. Some police can spot an attitude problem pretty quick, and that puts them on edge for a good reason, they could lose their life.

How would you or anybody feel if you were an officer, you catch a guy red handed murdering someone, the guy goes to court and gets off on some technicality? Makes for feeling your job is senseless.
They have one of the toughest jobs in the country other than being in the military.

Corbie said...

What Dave said.

brohammas said...

Sure its a tough job, I respect that. SO what happens if that cop thinks you look like one of the bad guys?
It's easy to respect how hard their job is if you aren't the one having a night stick swung at your knees.

Corbie, agreeing with Dave is dangerous. He comes from a suspicious family.

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